Could Mark Zuckerberg’s Asperger’s Syndrome be a contributing factor in his lack of concern for his customers’ privacy? In an online guide entitled “Coping: A Survival Guide for People with Asperger’s Syndrome,” late author Marc Segar, who himself had Asperger’s, lays out some of the most significant problems those with Asperger’s face, and one of those problems, according to him, is poor listening skills.
“To join in a conversation you need to listen to it,” Segar says in his guide. “Listening can be extremely difficult, especially if you have to keep your ears open 24 hours a day, but you can get better with practice. The most important thing to listen to is the plot of the conversation.”
In another section of the guide, Segar states “To assess a social situation, one needs to pick up on as many clues as possible and swiftly piece them together. The final deduction is often greater than the sum of its parts. Also, a difficult thing for an autistic person is ‘finding a balance’ and this may show its self at all levels of behavior and reasoning. The ability to adapt to the ‘situation continuum’ and conform to the surrounding world is however an extremely ancient survival strategy which is most relevant in the social sector of life.”
This behavior, which manifests itself in not being able to pick up on social clues, could also be a factor in Mark Zuckerberg’s refusal to take his customers’ concerns seriously. Even when the information is not being delivered by subtle clues but rather by very clearly stated desires; Zuckerberg seems to be totally oblivious.
Another issue people with Asperger’s have, according to Segar, is they think people who do not have Asperger’s are “ruthless” and purposely try to cause others to be embarrassed. “A non-autistic person’s sense of humor is often to do with finding clever ways of pointing out faults in other people and causing them embarrassment,” says Segar. “Everyone is a victim of someone else’s humor at some time or another but some people are made to suffer more than others. Sometimes non autistic people can get quite ruthless with their humor… In the eyes of many zoologists, humor is a human replacement for the violence which animals use on each other to establish an order of dominance (the pecking order)”
Perhaps Zuckerberg also views non-Asperger’s people this way, as violent animals, and as a result, is embittered against them, thus causing his own ruthless behavior when it comes to our right to privacy.
In his excellent article entitled, “The Tech Industry’s Asperger Problem: Affliction Or Insult?” Blogger Ryan Tate quotes author Jason Calacanis in saying that Zuckerberg is an “an amoral, Asperger’s-like entrepreneur.” Calacanis goes on to say “The dual nature of Asperger’s, from my understanding, is that it makes the individual focused on very specific behaviors–obsessively so in many cases–while decreasing their capacity for basic empathy and communication. It’s almost as if you trade off intensity in one area for common decency and communications in another area–not that the person has a choice.”
Tate goes on to posit:
To what extent can rampant abuse of user privacy among tech startups be traced to Asperger Disorder? And to what extent does modern web programming, in its demand for both speed and obsessive attention to technical detail, inherently reward Aspergian tendencies? Are the very Aspergers-like features that made Silicon Valley a hotbed of innovation — a relentless desire to commune with machines, a willingness to push past consumers’ technological comfort zones — turning it into an antisocial, sometimes parasitic force?
Is it a good idea to give someone with Asperger’s, who clearly has different ways of relating to non-Asperger’s people, so much power and control over all of our lives? Perhaps Mark Zuckerberg’s Asperger’s Syndrome has led us all into this current age of total non-privacy. In fact, Zuckerberg has stated outright that he does not believe in privacy, which is odd, since by all accounts, people with Asperger’s are extremely concerned about their own privacy. Indeed, Zuckerberg is a famously private person, but he obviously cares nothing about anyone else’s privacy. Could it be an Asperger’s-induced lack of empathy causing this, as stated by Calacanis?
We’ve handed over the reins of our privacy to someone afflicted with a disorder that makes them sometimes unable to listen, non-empathetic and often unable to pick up on cues; someone who potentially views non-Asperger’s people with scorn, as if non-Asperger’s people were zoo animals intent on hurting Asperger’s people with the “violence” of humor. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has Asperger’s and it seems to be affecting him while also contributing to Facebook’s privacy problem. The question is- what can we do about it?
By: Rebecca Savastio